Community Update

August 27, 2021

At the time of this CIO Community Update, we are less than two weeks away from the start of UBC's Winter Term 1. Having returned to my physical office on the Vancouver campus recently, it's great to see the campus come alive as students move into residences and more faculty and staff head back. As the campus vibrancy returns this month, I'd like to share a few updates on how UBC IT and the Office of the CIO have been preparing over the summer for the return to our physical campuses and the start of a new fall term.

Winter Term Preparedness

Staff in the IT community have been busy over the summer anticipating the return of on-campus teaching and learning. Here are some ways in which our IT teams have supported the UBC community:

  • Our Network team has upgraded and expanded WiFi connectivity in buildings and residences, including upgraded router technology for a number of UBC sites such as the Learning Exchange, Richmond Boathouse, and the Dairy Farm and a more robust set-up for our MedAV teaching hospital network.  Expanded outdoor coverage is underway as well.
  • Desktop Services on both campuses have been exceptionally busy, and have had to contend with a global delay in procurement of equipment due to the chip shortages. The team has found that offering remote services has allowed for quicker response times for clients, and the team will continue to offer both on-site and online services heading into the fall.
  • For our international students, we know that there may be challenges in returning in time for the start of term, and therefore we will continue to offer the Alibaba network license this academic term. Over the past year, we saw a total of more than 216,000 online connections via this service, allowing students to continue their remote learning.
  • Our Audio Visual staff on both campuses have increased resources to support instructors and students return to classrooms this fall, including doubling the number of student employees. Instructors are receiving additional resources to support ad-hoc recordings and live streaming solutions thanks to the collaborative efforts of our teams in the Learning Technology Hub and Audio Visual, working alongside the Learning Spaces team and CTLT.
  • Our frontline support staff in the IT Service Centre and the LT Hub continue to provide their services remotely, with the ITSC expected to be back on campus in a limited capacity beginning at the start of the term with a presence in the UBC Koerner Library, as in the past.
  • For the CIO's portfolio and UBC IT, this has meant providing support as staff and faculty bring back computers that have been used to work from home into the office environment. We have also been working to ensure conference and meeting room spaces are ready for use, and supporting academic and administrative units with what their leadership teams and staff need to ensure a successful return to the campus workplace.

Supporting UBC's Pilot Remote Work program

As we return to campus, we also will be implementing UBC's new remote work model, with all remote work agreements in place by November 1.

Our own IT workforce will also increase in on-campus presence over the next several months. While a  number of IT staff have remained on campus throughout the pandemic to meet operational requirements, and their support is greatly appreciated, the majority of our staff will be returning over the next few months, and with all staff expected back by November 1, 2021. A significant number of our senior leadership team has already returned to campus on a limited basis as of this month. While UBC IT has had a "work from home" practice in the past, allowing up to 2 days a week remote, under the new remote work pilot, we anticipate that many more of our staff will be able to take advantage of expanded flexibility, and a variety of schedules are anticipated to be utilized, ranging from fully on campus to mostly off campus. The type of remote work arrangement is aligned with the UBC HR framework and based on operational requirements, the role, and team and client collaboration requirements. We are appreciative of UBC's progressive approach, and will be reviewing the model next year.

Regardless of when you and your teams return to your campus workspace, please remember to stay vigilant with UBC's data and information security. With a highly mobile workforce and multiple devices being used to log-in to UBC's systems, it is essential that we remember to use multi-factor authentication, update our passwords frequently, and report any suspicious emails immediately to security@ubc.ca. Visit our Privacy Matters website for more tips on how to remain cyber-vigilant whether working at home or on campus.

Looking Ahead for the Fall Season

While responding to the needs generated by the UBC community's return to campus  and remote work remains a  priority, there are several other major projects on the horizon for the next quarter. IRP Student has been recruiting for more than 150 positions to support the program and the two-year timeline before the first series of deployments for our new highly anticipated student information system. Please visit the HR Careers website to view the IRP Student positions as we finalize the recruitment, with all vacancies posted for internal and external candidates.

Lastly, we are in the early stages of planning for UBC's next technology strategy – a shared UBC vision of how technology can enable and empower UBC's strategy, and which will set the direction for future IT goals and objectives. There has never been a more important time to reflect and plan for our digital future given the acceleration of our roadmap over the past year to develop new solutions to help adapt to changing circumstances. I am looking forward to hearing from stakeholders as part of the strategic planning sessions, and will keep the community informed via the OCIO website.

In addition to the strategic planning, IT will have a formal External Review later this fall. This will include a review by an external peer committee, with a self-study and stakeholder interviews to be completed. The review will be completed early next year and the recommendations will be incorporated into our new technology strategy, and the UBC IT roadmap as appropriate.

I know that many of us are anxious about the increasing cases of COVID-19 due to the Delta variant, the wildfires in the Interior, and the recent global news impacting many of our international students as well as the extended families of our colleagues. As this month draws to a close, I urge everyone to find ways to stay safe physically and mentally while we work together through the uncertainties, to support one another with kindness and generosity of spirit, and let's look ahead to making the fall a welcome start for our students, staff and faculty.

Jennifer Burns
AVP, Information Technology & CIO